When I walked onto the track at Mt. San Antonio College for the Mt. SAC Relays, a three-day meet in Walnut, Calif., to watch Anders Crabo PO ’12 race the steeplechase before warming up for my own race, the 10k, I entered the stadium to a swell of nostalgia.
Though this was my first time competing in the relays, I’d been there before to watch my former All-American Pomona-Pitzer role models, such as Crosby Freeman PO ’06 (who set the 10k school record) and Will Leer PO ’07 run in the meet’s highly competitive races. I’d seen Olympians exhibit amazing feats of stamina, endurance, and commitment to the environment, like Anthony Famiglietti, who two years ago ran a time of 13:11 in the 5000m (4:15 per mile) and then jogged around picking up trash. This was one of the only places I’d ever seen many of these great athletes compete. It was a place I’d never run, and I was not really sure I ever could run.
The relays bring athletes at the top of their specialty in the country, international athletes, as well as the top D-I athletes. As a result of all this, it also brings the top coaches and announcers. There are no half-time shows, cheerleaders, or loud music. There are just great athletes, and continual performances.
There was one gimmicky race: the first annual Puma Mile, where runners competed for a endorsement contract from Puma. David Torrence, formerly of UC Berkeley, won, closing hard off a slow early pace to run 4:01. He then was adorned with a pro wrestling-style golden belt, given a bottle of champagne, which he promptly popped on the track, and then he did a victory lap, booze in hand.
The great part about a meet like this is that by attending, competing, and running into people I’ve met in my years of running, I’ve discovered a great resource, and the stands are hardly packed, the “stars” have no entourage, and they are, for the most part, very approachable. Everyone worked really hard to get here. Though such an esoteric gathering might hamper track and field’s growth as a professional sport, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this sport’s unique culture.
Crabo, meanwhile, ran a nine-second personal best of 9:27, putting him only four seconds out of the NCAA qualifying mark.
As for me, I was outclassed even in the slower of two 10k heats. I dipped under the provisional mark by 0.98 seconds, clocking a 31:09.02 for the 25-lap race. I can say I was the top D-III athlete in the race. Out of two. It was an 18-second best, and a qualifying mark, but it places me in the uncomfortable position of being close to qualifying, but not quite, as I have run, after this weekend, the 20th fastest 10k time in Division III. Typically there are 17 to 18 athletes in the field, and there are still several weeks left to qualify.